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“It has always seemed strange to me…the things we admire in men, kindness and generosity, openness, honesty, understanding and feeling, are the concomitants of failure in our system. And those traits we detest, sharpness, greed, acquisitiveness, meanness, egotism and self-interest, are the traits of success.  And while men admire the quality of the first, they love the produce of the second.”  ~ John Steinbeck

I love his writings, but I don’t care about these traits of success and failure according-to-Steinbeck.  His life was kind of a wreck (as opposed to my life of lucky charms), and if you’ve read anything by him, you see his books reflected that.  Somehow I think he’s right, however, and this is as frightening an idea as any.  Maybe the key words in his quote are “in our system.”  But whose system is “ours”?  Americans?  Humans?

I’ve created new links (look to the list at the left) and am going to be adding more new links promoting compassion – to embody that same kindness and generosity, openness, honesty, understanding and feeling Steinbeck mentioned – regardless of the reversal of the deliberate desire for moneycoin fortune and deliberate shrugging-off of the complacency and comfort necessary to truly become involved in the art of the philanthropist.

As the weeks go by I will be compiling all kinds of things into the Great Big Bank of Karma.  Maybe I’ll duplicate it as a tab over here, in spite of the lack of confidence on Steinbeck’s part that these kindnesses can ever be traits of success.

When Jonah was a baby, I envisioned bringing him into my world of commie pinko do-gooder bleeding heartedness…of keeping him at my side as we served food at soup kitchens and put quarters into meters and handed out flowers to lonely folk, bringing arts & crafts toys to kids in hospitals, visiting the elderly in nursing homes, hanging out with veterans at the VA hospital…  Oh, I had all kinds of notions and ideas.  He’d grow up learning to give back, to be a good, loving, thinking, compassionate man.

It was one of the hardest illusions to have to watch fade before my eyes — and one I want to re-embrace, if only on my own for now.  Maybe all is not lost – if we are able to mitigate Jonah’s aggressions to the point of nonexistence (or close to it),  maybe as a teen or young adult I could try to bring him with me and we can do somethings to help somebodies somewheres.  I will not die feeling as though I’ve never done anything of significance – and if I can’t teach it to my Boo, I can live it.  Andy does a lot of soup kitchen work (and God knows what else he doesn’t tell me about) where he lives.  He can’t bring Jonah along either, of course.  But we can do what we can do in his name, in honor of Boo, so to speak.

For now I watch my boy hurt instead of help others.  It is a frustrating turn of fate — like when my Fox-watching conservative mother adopted a baby girl who turned hippie.   Lo siento, madre.

So Andy brought Jonah up to see me and my mom yesterday.  Jonah wanted this and that, all kinds of things to eat and do.  My mom’s next door neighbors were away and kindly offered us the use of their pool once again.  This time I took video, and upgraded my account so I can imbed it…somehow…I think.  Let me try.  The auspiciously cool thing about it is he dived a few times during the 3 1/2 minute video, which he hasn’t been doing much lately:

I have no idea if what I just did worked.  In case it didn’t, here are some pictures:
Then, straight to the bath, as per Jonah’s request…

He scrunches down until the water fills up the tub

…and waves his arms in the wind and rain from the backseat, on the way to see train…

“…and the music of the pearl drifted to a whisper and disappeared.”  ~ The Pearl by John Steinbeck

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Most mornings, Jonah wakes up and loiters near his bedroom doorway, making little noises until Andy or I extend an invitation for him to come in our room.  We didn’t teach him this; it’s not like with the potty, where we dangle the ‘black soda carrot’ to elicit a desired behavior.  I have no idea what makes him wait at the threshold of his room when he clearly wants to jump in bed with us (and when this kind of self-regulation appears to be lacking entirely in every other instance of his life).  But wait he does.  This morning:

“Where’s my bunny?” I call out to him.  It’s 7:15am, kind of late for Jonah to be first waking and uttering his jabberwocky.  He comes running in and around to my side of the bed, where I pull back the sheet so he can get under the covers.  It’s awfully early but I’m an early bird by nature, and the truth is I love this time with Jonah, when I get to hug him close and kiss the top of his little almost-blonde head, when I get to squeeze him tight and sing “he’s the best little boy in the –”

–and hear Jonah’s little voice finishing the phrase: “– whole wide world!”

Today, though, I am particularly tired when he comes bounding in.  “Let’s go back to sleepy bye,” I whisper in a not-so-convincing excited voice.  For a while he cuddles but then gets restless and begins his daily litany of requests, repetitions, rituals…

Sighing, I mutter a phrase we say jokingly at work all the time: “Dear God and little baby Jesus help me.”

Reliably, Jonah repeats what he thinks he has heard.  “Help me, baby Jason!”

Laughing, I sit up.  “Wanna go see train?” I ask, figuring he’s going to ask me anyway so I’ll beat him to the punch.

Moneycoin?” he asks.  So it’s going to be a moneycoin kind of day. I get him a Tupperware container with maybe an inch or two of moneycoin inside; he is delighted.  “Moneycoin!” he shouts in gleeful agreement.  Then:  “train?” he asks.  “Yes, boo, we can go see the train too,” I generously concede.

On the way, we turn Guster up loud – and Jonah’s Tupperware container of moneycoin is a fine percussion instrument.  “So go… on!  If it’ll make you happier!” he sing-shouts, shaking his moneycoin around to the beat.  During the next song, a quieter tune, he gently swishes the moneycoin inside the container with his hand. Never let it be said my boy can’t break it down.

We even see two trainssomething spectacularly fortuitous. Later, we go with Grandma Jane to the park and Jonah brings his moneycoin along; for a while he just sits on a picnic bench and lets it run through his fingers in a miserly fashion.


Then he carries it to the top of the slide and dumps it down, a great rain of moneycoin falling into a shiny scattered pile at the bottom. A couple of two-or-three-year-old kids try to talk to Jonah at one point.

“Hi!” the little girl says brightly.  I prompt Jonah, who is so engrossed in the world of moneycoin, he probably doesn’t even hear the kid.

“Say hi, boo,” I tell him.

“Hi,” he says without looking up.  The precocious girl is indignant. “I”m over here,” she insists.

“He’s not much of a talker,” I explain.  My mother-in-law has already told the parents that Jonah has autism.  The little kids quickly lose interest and run off, laughing at some shared tidbit.  They’re awfully cute, those kids.

My boy, on the other hand, is completely grimy, dirt coating his hands, his grubby clothes, most of his face, and of course, his bare feet.  Jonah hears a train horn and goes tearing off toward the car.  We spring into action and actually catch the damn thing at the tracks.  Sweet.

After the park and the bonus-train, we visit Grandma Jane and Grandpa Jim’s house, where Jonah dumps the remaining moneycoin, this time in their driveway.

We got home a little while ago.  Now he’s in the bath, washing off round one of what will likely be two or three rounds-worth of dirt he’ll acquire today.

Dear God and little baby Jason help us.

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